Can We Do Both? Eportfolios for Student Learning and Assessment: Lessons Learned at an American University

Can We Do Both? Eportfolios for Student Learning and Assessment: Lessons Learned at an American University

Candyce Reynolds (Portland State University, USA) and Judith Patton (Portland State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0143-7.ch008
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The use of eportfolios in American universities has proliferated over the last ten years as administrators and educators have discovered the rich opportunities that they provide for both promoting and assessing student learning. However, too often institutions of higher education prioritize assessment over student learning, creating assignments and protocols that ease assessment of student work while at the same time ignoring the valuable aspects that creating an eportfolio can provide for students, rendering the eportfolio as merely another assignment. This chapter focuses on lessons learned in University Studies, Portland State University’s four-level interdisciplinary general education program, about the importance of balancing assessment needs with student learning needs.
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Background: Portland State University

Portland State University is a comprehensive, urban, public institution in Oregon’s largest city. Situated at the south end of downtown Portland, the University has almost 30,000 enrolled students and serves a population of over 40,000 in credit or noncredit classes each year, including nearly one-third of the Oregon University System's enrolled graduate students. The urban location of the university provides the impetus for engaging with the community as a key part of the curriculum, and PSU adopted the motto, “Let Knowledge Serve the City” as part of a nationwide project to define public urban institutions. The university re-envisioned itself and engaged in targeted systemic change that touched almost every area of the institution from administration and front line student services to interdisciplinary education and general education. University Studies was adopted as the general education program for the majority of students with the goal of shifting the university to a student-centered learning institution. Because the new general education program was such a differently structured course delivery system, it was important to design assessment that would align with the new way of thinking about students and about learning and that would also allow the university to feel assured that the program was delivering on its goals. The situation provided a fertile ground for integrating learning goals, student work and assessment in a way that supported each endeavor.

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